Thom Browne Gives a ‘Teddy Talk’ in a Playful Toy-Themed Show | lifestyles

By JOCELYN NOVECK – AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) – The 500 spectators were seated in neat rows, and they definitely had gotten the memo on the attire: Everyone was perfectly dressed in a classic gray Thom Browne suit.

They were also very quiet, perhaps because they knew Browne’s Friday night show was a special occasion taking place in New York and not Paris, where he usually hosts shows to coincide with Monday’s Met Gala. But probably also because they were stuffed animals.

To be precise, these were teddy bears lined up in tiny chairs for a motivational ‘teddy talk’.

It was another Browne extravaganza, more of a piece of theater or performance art than a catwalk show, this time with an unusually playful vibe. In his narrated screenplay, Browne — a consummate showman who’s also one of America’s most successful designers — tried to educate the crowds of bears and humans (in bigger chairs) about finding your authentic self. In this case, Browne said, we all have a “toy version” that’s more over the top and wacky, but one that’s worth connecting with.

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How has this high concept connected to fashion? That’s a question Browne happily answers with ensembles that are small feats of creative engineering. Here, his toy store theme stretched from myriad versions of his classic gray suit, trimmed and pleated with light colored silk, to his quirky handbags and shoes, like the Alphabet block purses and platform shoes, or the “Hector” handbags his own dog, expanded to include toy ponies and other nursery animals.

The show, set in a breezy theater in far west Manhattan, began with two giant doors opening to an imaginary store. A few shoppers entered in tweeds and tall tubular hats, a vaguely 19th-century look. One group carried together an extra long “Hector” bag with three sets of handles.

“New York, where you come from to find yourself,” announced the soundtrack. “A lifetime of quests, a lifetime of questions… finally and fully answered.” The “teddy talk” began.

The speaker, or “head bear,” wore a signature brown gray flannel short suit, but with a teddy beanie and bear-like shearling gloves and platform boots. Over the soundtrack, he told his bear-filled audience about his favorite New Yorkers who were lost until they came to this store “to find their true selves.”

A procession of 25 smartly dressed adults followed, both women and men in various colors of tweed and flannel but with the classic looks brightened up with bright colors – red, white and blue trimmings or sometimes gold and green. Her hair was styled in dramatic topiary-like creations that equated to modern sculpture. But the fantasy element was yet to come: a second procession of 25 more models, each a “toy version” of one of the previous 25.

These human toys had blotchy makeup and exaggerated facial features. The toys they represented were old-school, like Slinkys, those classic colored alphabet blocks, or jack-in-the-boxes. Each “adult” element has been exaggerated – sometimes literally inflated to fantastical proportions. Accessories were particularly imaginative, particularly these shoes with letter blocks – literally stacks of blocks which, it has to be said, were better navigated by the female models than the males.

The front row included recent Grammy winner Jon Batiste in a plaid Browne suit and actor-musician Leslie Odom Jr. in a cream shorts ensemble. Vogue’s Anna Wintour, three days before the Met Gala she will chair, was alongside Andrew Bolton, director of the Met’s Costume Institute and curator of the exhibition “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” which will be opened by the gala. Bolton is also Browne’s life partner.

The climax of the sartorial storytelling was a “meeting” of the two groups when both the adults and their toy versions came out, then turned and actually spoke, laughed and smiled to each other.

Models laughing and talking on the runway? That was perhaps the most unique element of all. “Finding your true self,” intoned the speaker at the end. “Unique. Authentic. Confident. Always stay true to yourself.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

Thom Browne Gives a ‘Teddy Talk’ in a Playful Toy-Themed Show | lifestyles

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